|Single by The Beatles|
|A-side||"Strawberry Fields Forever"|
|Released||13 February 1967 (US)
17 February 1967 (UK)
|Recorded||29 December 1966 –
17 January 1967
EMI Studios, London
|Genre||Baroque pop, psychedelic pop, psychedelic rock|
|The Beatles singles chronology|
Recorded during the Sgt. Pepper sessions, "Penny Lane" was released in February 1967 as one side of a double A-sided single, along with "Strawberry Fields Forever". The single was the result of the record company wanting a new release after several months of no new Beatles releases.
The song's title is derived from the name of a street near Lennon's childhood home for his first 5 years (Newcastle Road, just off Church Road), in the band's hometown, Liverpool, England. McCartney and Lennon would meet at Penny Lane junction in the Princes Park area to catch a bus into the centre of the city. During the 1960s, this was a significant bus terminus for several routes, and buses with "Penny Lane" displayed were common throughout Liverpool. The name Penny Lane is also used for the area that surrounds its junction with Smithdown Road, Smithdown Place (where the terminus was located) and Allerton Road, including a busy shopping area. Penny Lane is believed to be named after James Penny, an 18th-century slave trader.
The street is an important landmark, sought out by many Beatles fans touring Liverpool. In the past, street signs saying "Penny Lane" were constant targets of tourist theft and had to be continually replaced. Eventually, city officials gave up and simply began painting the street name on the sides of buildings. This practice was stopped in 2007 and more theft-resistant "Penny Lane" street signs have since been installed, although some are still stolen.
Beatles producer George Martin has stated he believes the pairing of "Penny Lane" with "Strawberry Fields Forever" resulted in probably the greatest single ever released by the band. Both songs were later included on the US Magical Mystery Tour album in November 1967. In the UK, the pairing famously failed to reach No. 1 in the singles charts, stalling one place below Engelbert Humperdinck's "Release Me". In the US the song became the band's 13th single to reach number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, doing so for a week before being knocked off by the Turtles' song "Happy Together".
The single was released following the success of the double A-side Yellow Submarine / Eleanor Rigby, when Brian Epstein enquired if the band had any new material available. Since the Beatles usually did not include songs released as singles on their British albums, both songs were left off the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, a decision Martin later regretted.
This was also the first single by the Beatles to be sold with a picture sleeve in the UK, a practice rarely used there at that time, but common in the US and various other countries (such as Japan).
Production began in Studio 2 at Abbey Road on 29 December 1966 with piano as the main instrument. On 17 January 1967, trumpet player David Mason recorded the piccolo trumpet solo. The solo, inspired by a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach's second Brandenburg Concerto, is in a mock-Baroque style for which the piccolo trumpet (a small instrument built about one octave higher than the standard instrument) is particularly suited, having a clean and clear sound which penetrates well through thicker midrange textures. According to lead sound engineer Geoff Emerick, David Mason "nailed it," at some point during the recording; Paul McCartney tried to get him to do another take but producer George Martin insisted it wasn't necessary, sensing Mason's fatigue. This is known as one of the few times the producer's decision overruled that of the already superstar Beatles. Geoff Emerick also notes in his book that prior to this recording, the high "E" was considered unobtainable by trumpet musicians and has been expected of them since said performance on the record. Mason was paid 27 pounds and 10 shillings for his performance on the recording. Penny Lane production effects include percussion effects, piano through a Vox guitar amplifier with added reverb.
The original US promo single mix of "Penny Lane" had an additional flourish of piccolo trumpet notes at the end of the song. This mix was quickly superseded by one without the last trumpet passage, but not before a handful of copies had been pressed and sent to radio stations. These recordings are among the rarest and most valuable Beatles collectibles. A stereo mix of the song with the additional trumpet added back in was included on the US Rarities compilation and the UK album: The Beatles Box in 1980, and is included on an alternate take of the song released on Anthology 2 in 1996.
- Paul McCartney – lead, harmony and backing vocals, three pianos and bass
- John Lennon – harmony and backing vocals, two pianos, congas and handclaps
- George Harrison – backing vocal, handbell and handclaps
- Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine
- George Martin – piano, production, orchestration
- David Mason – piccolo trumpet solo
- Ray Swinfield, P. Goody, Manny Winters – flutes, piccolos
- Leon Calvert, Freddy Clayton, Bert Courtley, Duncan Campbell – trumpets, flugelhorn
- Dick Morgan, Mike Winfield – oboes, cor anglais
- Frank Clarke – double-bass
In August 1987, the piccolo trumpet Mason played on "Penny Lane" and two other Beatles tracks ("All You Need Is Love" and "Magical Mystery Tour") was sold in an auction at Sotheby's for $10,846.
Lyrics and music
The song has a double tonic structure of B major verse (in I-vi-ii-V cycles) and A major chorus connected by formal pivoting dominant chords. In the opening bars in B major, after singing "In Penny Lane" (in an F#-B-C#-D# melody note ascent) McCartney uses major 3rds[clarification needed Do you mean harmony intervals, III chords, melody notes?] (on "Lane" and "Pocket") and major 7ths[clarification needed same issue] (on "a fireman" and "a portrait") then switches to a Bm key involving flattened 3rd notes (on "Queen" with a i7 [Bm7] chord) and flattened 7th notes (on "engine clean" [with a ♭VImaj7 [Gmaj7] chord] and "clean machine" [with a V7sus4 [F#7sus4] chord]). This has been described as a profound and surprising innovation involving abandoning mid-cycle what initially appears to be a standard I-vi-ii-V Doo Wop pop chord cycle. To get from the verse "In the pouring rain - very strange" McCartney uses an E chord as a pivot, (it is a IV chord in the preceding B key and a V in the looming A key) to take listeners back into the chorus ("Penny Lane is in my ears ..."). Likewise to get back from the chorus of "There beneath the blue suburban skies I sit, and meanwhile back ... , McCartney uses an F#7 pivot chord (which is a VI in the old A key and a V in the new B key). The lyrics "very strange" and "meanwhile back" can be viewed as hinting at these complex tonal changes.
A feature of the song was the piccolo trumpet solo played by Mason. This is thought to be the first use of this instrument (a distinctive, speciality instrument, pitched an octave higher than the standard B-flat trumpet) in pop music. Martin later wrote, "The result was unique, something which had never been done in rock music before." McCartney was dissatisfied with the initial attempts at the song's instrumental fill (one of which, featuring cors anglais, was released on Anthology 2), and was inspired to use the instrument after seeing Mason's performance on a BBC television broadcast of the second Brandenburg Concerto by Johann Sebastian Bach.
The song features contrasting verse-chorus form. Lyrically there are several ambiguous and surreal images. The song is seemingly narrated on a fine summer day ("beneath the blue suburban skies"), yet at the same time it is raining ("the fireman rushes in from the pouring rain") and approaching winter ("selling poppies from a tray" implies Remembrance Day, 11 November). Ian MacDonald has stated: "Seemingly naturalistic, the lyric scene is actually kaleidoscopic. As well as raining and shining at the same time, it is simultaneously summer and winter.". Macdonald suggests an LSD influence, and that the lyrical imagery points to McCartney first taking LSD in late 1966. However, he also cites a different story, which dates McCartney's first LSD trip to 21 March 1967. Macdonald finishes with the comment: "Despite its seeming innocence, there are few more LSD-redolent phrases in the Beatles' output than the line ... in which the Nurse 'feels as if she's in a play' ... and 'is anyway'."
The 'shelter in the middle of the roundabout' refers to the old bus shelter, later developed into a cafe/restaurant with a Beatles theme, but now derelict and abandoned, despite its popularity as a tourist attraction. This is also Penny Lane Bus Terminus, where the Nos 46 (Penny Lane to Walton) and 99 (Penny Lane to Old Swan) buses terminated and is officially on Smithdown Place.
The mysterious lyrics "Four of fish and finger pies" are British slang. "A four of fish" refers to fourpennyworth of fish and chips, while "finger pie" is sexual slang of the time, apparently referring to intimate fondlings between teenagers in the shelter, which was a familiar meeting place. The combination of "fish and finger" also puns on fish fingers. The lyrics as printed on the compilation album The Beatles: 1967–1970 (aka the "Blue Album"), however, are "Full of fish and finger pies" which are incorrect. In the remastered version, the lyrics read as "For a fish and finger pies," which is also incorrect.
Penny Lane today
Prior to securing international fame, Penny Lane's chief renown was as the terminus for the No 46 and No 99 bus routes to Walton, Old Swan and the city centre. The terminus included a purpose-built bus shelter, with waiting room and toilets for waiting passengers. The shelter is located on its own "island" which is the mentioned "shelter on the roundabout" in the Beatles song. In the 1980s, the shelter was bought privately and converted to the Sergeant Pepper's Bistro, though it has since closed and now stands in the middle of its roundabout looking in a very sorry state. The shelter is actually situated in Smithdown Place, though the terminus was named Penny Lane because of its proximity to Penny Lane.
Towards the end of the 1970s, businesses in Penny Lane included Penny Lane Records and a wine bar known in the early years as Harper's Bizarre, now called Penny Lane Wine Bar (this was actually a Doctors' Surgery, previously Drs Walton, Endbinder and Partners); the practice moved to Smithdown Place in the 1980s. Following privatisation, the Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive bus depot, slightly up the hill past Bioletti's, was demolished and replaced with a shopping precinct complete with a supermarket and a public house.
Since then, the general Penny Lane area has acquired a distinct trendiness and desirability. The "alternative" businesses (wholefood outlets, charity shops), the now expanded array of cafés, bars, bistros, and takeaway food emporiums, as well as handily located traditional businesses (WHSmiths and Clarke's cake shop), make the neighbourhood the most sought-after among Liverpool's large student population. Though the song refers to the "Penny Lane junction" on Smithdown Road, the street itself also leads down at the other end to the University of Liverpool's student halls of residence, near Sefton Park.
In July 2006, a Liverpool Councillor proposed renaming certain streets because their names were linked to the slave trade. It was soon discovered that Penny Lane, named after James Penny, a wealthy 18th-century slave ship owner and strong opponent of abolitionism, was one of these streets. Ultimately, city officials decided to forgo the name change and re-evaluate the entire renaming process. On 10 July 2006, it was revealed that Liverpool officials said they would modify the proposal to exclude Penny Lane.
According to Barry Miles, the fireman and fire engine referred to in the lyrics are based upon the fire station at Mather Avenue, which is "about half a mile down the road" from Penny Lane. The station is still in use today.
The promotional film for "Penny Lane" was, together with the video for "Strawberry Fields Forever", one of the first examples of what later became known as a music video. The music video for the song was not filmed at Penny Lane, as the Beatles were reluctant to travel to Liverpool. Street scenes were filmed in and around Angel Lane in London's East End. The broken sequence of Lennon walking alone was filmed on the King's Road (at Markham Square) in Chelsea. The outdoor scenes were filmed at Knole Park in Sevenoaks on 30 January 1967. The promotional film for "Strawberry Fields Forever" was also shot at the same location, during the same visit (during The Beatles stay in Sevenoaks, Lennon wandered into an antiques gallery and purchased the poster for Pablo Fanque's Circus Royal that would inspire the song, "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"). Both films—directed by the Swede Peter Goldmann—were selected by New York's MoMA to be among the most influential promotional music films of the late 1960s. Film of "Penny Lane" was included - with some scenes of green Liverpool buses and a brief overhead view of the 'shelter in the middle of the roundabout', but none of the Beatles attended.
Northern Songs, the publishing company that owned all but four of the Beatles songs, was acquired by ATV – a media company owned by Lew Grade in 1969. By 1985 the company was being run by serial Australian entrepreneur Robert Holmes à Court, who decided to sell the catalogue to Michael Jackson.
Prior to the sale he offered his 16-year-old daughter Catherine the chance to keep any song "in her name" from the catalogue. She chose "Penny Lane" as it was her favourite - despite her father's urging to choose "Yesterday", which was by far the biggest royalty earning song on the books (and is in the top four global royalty earning songs of all time).
|Canada CHUM Chart||1|
|UK Singles Chart||2|
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||1|
"Love Is Here and Now You're Gone" by the Supremes
|Billboard Hot 100 number one single
18 March 1967 (one week)
"Happy Together" by the Turtles
- Paul Mauriat recorded an instrumental version of the song on his Album nº 5 (1967).
- Al Di Meola recorded another instrumental version of the song on his CD All Your Life (2013).
- The Rutles' song "Doubleback Alley" is a pastiche of this song.
- Count Basie recorded a swing version on his record Basie on the Beatles, which also includes other Lennon-McCartney songs such as "Hey Jude" and "Get Back" (1969).
- Courrier, Kevin (2009). Artificial paradise: the dark side of the Beatles' utopian dream. Michegan: Praeger. p. 157. ISBN 0-313-34586-4.
- Heylin, C (2007). The Act You've Known For All These Years: the Life, and Afterlife, of Sgt. Pepper. London: Canongate Books. p. 153. ISBN 1-84195-955-3.
- Working Class Heroes: Rock Music and British Society in the 1960s and 1970s by David Simonelli, page 106
- RIAA 2009.
- Unterberger 2009.
- Pandey, Swati (16 July 2006). "Beneath the blue suburban skies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
- Lynskey 2004.
- The Beatles 2000, p. 239.
- Babiuk et al. 2002, p. 195.
- Ingham 2009, p. 245.
- Miles & Charlesworth 1998, p. 228.
- Steele-Perkins 2001, p. 120.
- Morin 1998.
- MacDonald 2005, pp. 221–223.
- Pedler 2003, p. 658.
- Pedler 2003, pp. 658-659.
- Pedler 2003, p. 659.
- Pedler 2003, pp. 348-349.
- Martin & Hornsby 1994, p. 202.
- Lewisohn 1988, p. 93.
- Young 2007.
- Beatles Interview Database 2009.
- Macdonald, Ian (1994). Revolution in the Head. p. 179.
- Mann, Brent (2005). Blinded By the Lyrics: Behind the Lines of Rock & Roll's Most Baffling Songs, p. 171. New York, NY: Kensington Publishing Corp. (Accessed 18 June 2010).
- FOX News 2006.
- Miles, Barry. Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now.
- Austerlitz, Saul (2007). Money for Nothing: A History of the Music Video from the Beatles to the White Stripes. Continuum.
- Turner, Steve (1994). A Hard Day's Write. HarperCollins.
- The Beatles Bible 2008.
- "Beatles copyrights in McCartney's (distant) sights". Reuters. 10 August 2009. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Penny Lane.|
- Babiuk, Andy; Lewisohn, Mark; Bacon, Tony (2002). Beatles Gear: All the Fab Four's Instruments, from Stage to Studio. Backbeat Books. ISBN 0-87930-731-5.
- The Beatles (2000). The Beatles Anthology. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN 0-8118-2684-8.
- Ingham, Chris (2003). The Rough Guide to the Beatles. Rough Guides. ISBN 1-84353-140-2.
- Lewisohn, Mark (1988). The Beatles Recording Sessions. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-517-57066-1.
- "Liverpool Won't Rename Penny Lane, Despite Slavery Ties". FOX News. 10 July 2006.
- Lynskey, Dorian (7 May 2004). "Greatest chart number twos". The Guardian.
- MacDonald, Ian (2005). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties (Second Revised ed.). London: Pimlico (Rand). ISBN 1-84413-828-3.
- "Magical Mystery Tour". Beatles Interview Database. 2009. Retrieved 28 December 2009.
- Martin, George; Hornsby, Jeremy (1994). All You Need Is Ears. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-11482-6.
- Miles, Barry; Charlesworth, Chris (1998). The Beatles: A Diary. Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-6315-0.
- Morin, Cari (1998). The Evolution of Beatles' Recording Technology.
- Pedler, Dominic (2003). The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. New York: Music Sales Limited. Omnibus Press.
- "Penny Lane". The Beatles Bible. 2008. Retrieved 12 October 2008.
- "RIAA Gold & Platinum Searchable Database - The Beatles Gold Singles". RIAA. 2009. Retrieved 20 July 2009.
- Steele-Perkins, Crispian (2001). The Trumpet. Menuhin Music Guides (London: Kahn & Averill). ISBN 1-871082-69-2.
- Unterberger, Richie (2009). "Review of "Penny Lane"". Allmusic. Retrieved 24 November 2009.
- Young, Neville (1 September 2007). "The piccolo trumpet solos in the Beatles' "Penny Lane"".
- An appreciation of the song from the McSweeneys.net series of Short Essays on Favorite Songs, Inspired by Nick Hornby's Songbook.
- Alan W. Pollack's Notes on "Penny Lane"
- Golden Oldies of Music Video a presentation from New York's MoMA originally screened on 17 April 2003
- St Barnabas Church Penny Lane
- Penny Lane Development Trust building a community/visitor centre on Grove Mount Penny Lane
- Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics